Sunday, April 24, 2011

April 24, 2011 ~ Day 136
Permission To Rest

Sunday is the most peaceful day of my week, not just because it is a sacred time when I often attend church, praying for guidance or to accept the challenges that life offers ~ but also because on Sundays my husband takes our three small children for a few hours so that I can get a break.

Today was no exception, that sweet guy woke at 7 with the kids (we all slept in!) and piled them into their clothes to take them out for breakfast and playtime.

I listened as they scampered around looking for their shoes and matching socks, then smiled with gratitude to hear them call out: "BYE MOMMMEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!" as they slammed the front door.

Ah... Sunday.

Typically on a Sunday I end up spending much of my time cleaning or doing laundry, catching up on content writing work for my husband's company or other errands that need to get done.

Today though, I looked up at the ceiling and thought about how stressed out and tired I've been in the last few days.

"I think this morning I need to do something I haven't done in a LONG time. Today I need to put the TO DO list away - I need to give myself permission to rest."

Settling back into the covers of my bed, I remembered what life was like ten years ago... a time when sleeping in on a Sunday morning was routine. I mused over days of lingering brunches with friends that started at noon and lasted til three, followed by perhaps a nap or a long walk along the ocean.

Being twenty-five, single and childless came with a lot of perks that I took for granted at the time!

One of the hardest challenges I've faced as a stay-at-home-mom is not having the luxury of silence or space. There really isn't such a thing as, "You know, I think I'm just going to lay low today because I've got this awful head cold and I need to sleep."

In my new life, that same scenario becomes, "Ugh - just got ten more hours before I can finally put the kids to bed and lay down again. MUST.KEEP.GOING."

This isn't unique though, all parents everywhere face the same thing. We all face sleep deprivation and stress, we all muddle through. Most folks aren't even lucky enough to get a break on the weekend for a few hours, so I have NOTHING to complain about! I am a very lucky mother, and I know it.

Permission To Rest is a challenge though, for someone as Type A and controlling as I can be.

Permission To Rest means that it's fine to let Daddy do things his way. It means the kids are going to be just fine whether their clothes match or they wind up eating jelly beans for breakfast, and I don't need to jump out of bed to redress them. It means that I have to accept that yes, the house may be messy if folks come over later in the day... and yes, that stack of work waiting for me to complete will still be waiting for me tomorrow.

The laundry is not going to magically do itself, and the dishes will still be in the sink.

That doesn't make me a bad person; a bad wife, or a bad mother. It may make me a poor housekeeper, but hey - what's new.

I need to fully accept the part of myself that is less motivated, less 'on top of things'. Permission to Rest means it's really okay to lay down and close my eyes once in a while - and that I'm not allowed to judge myself for doing so.

Especially since becoming a stay-at-home mother, I have struggled with self-judgment. I have very high personal standards and expectations of what needs to be completed or accomplished during the course of a day; and an extremely mediocre record of holding to my plans.

This wouldn't be a big deal if it didn't bother me. But, it does. I judge myself harshly for the things I am unable to accomplish during the course of a day and feel badly about myself when I look around at everything that hasn't gotten done. It's even worse when my husband comes home from work at night and innocently asks, "So what did you do today?" because he too notices the inevitable messes in every room.

I know he wonders what sucks away my time, and frankly, so do I! I've even started to make entries in an online time-keeper these days just to get a pie chart or graph of exactly where my days go.

There always seems to be an unexpected dirty diaper that I have to change right as we are going out the door; a boo-boo that needs cleaning and bandaging (and soothing!); a sibling fight that requires mediation; an outfit that's been doused with chocolate/mud/tomato sauce/strawberries/poop that needs to be changed.

Each day is in fact quite predictably punctuated with so many interruptions, it would probably be more practical NOT to make plans or lists of things to accomplish. I might feel better about myself in a lot of ways if I wasn't keeping track of my own shortcomings.

That said, if I didn't make lists, (a) Nothing would EVER get done; and (b) I would probably go crazy.

Permission to Rest forces me to let go of all of my plans, put down the lists, take a deep breath and *trust* that the world is not going to fall apart even if I retreat from the battlefield for a short time.

When you're a mother you often feel like YOU alone are the thing holding the world together; not only for your children but also for your husband and yourself. My husband is an incredible father, such a loving man - but I still worry about what would happen to my family if I vanished one day.

I feel this incredible weight of responsibility to care for all of them; to give my children the kind of love, devotion, protection, nurturing and care unique to my personality - that I alone can give to them.

Permission to Rest means letting go of that role for a short time... putting my worthy burden on a high shelf just long enough to feel the lightness of existing without it.

It means sitting at a cafe with a good book and a cup of tea, with no agenda and nothing to complete. It means spending a few hours poring over old photo albums or listening to an entire record while doing nothing else - just appreciating the music. Chatting for hours with a good friend about nothing important or dramatic ~ "What was the movie about?" or "What kind of hair dye do you use?" just to connect and enjoy catching up.

Sometimes, it just means sleeping.

I don't often give myself permission to rest. Usually I am pushing on through... staying up late... working into the wee hours of the morning and up again at dawn to try to hold onto myself (and finish my blog posts) while also holding myself together as a mother.

Today though, I gave myself the opportunity to lay still and silent - allowing thoughts to flit through my mind like butterflies but pursuing none of them exclusively. I gave my brain the morning off; and my body followed suit.

Sheepishly but also a tiny bit proudly, I will admit that I accomplished NOTHING this morning. I did nothing for my family, nothing for my friends, nothing for the world. I just unplugged for a while, then zoned out in an Epsom Salt bath and fully relaxed.

By the time my husband and kids returned home from their adventures at 11am to get ready for a family party we were attending, I had become a cheerful, loving and patient person to be around. I still feel tired physically but emotionally I am at peace, totally balanced.

In the end despite the very real pressures of our busy lives ~ no matter who we are; whether we have children, or not ~ we all need to give ourselves permission to rest once in a while. People who don't rest tend to burn out.

For my children ~ who follow so closely (already!) in their Type A mother's footsteps ~ here is today's message. It's great to work hard and play hard... but sometimes, it's equally important to chill out.

Relax and let go for a while. It will do you good!

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